Many IUSD parents have chosen the areas where they live in so that their children can attend specific neighborhood schools. IUSD's current plans for the 2020-2021 academic year effectively does not offer an online option to students who desire to take classes offered by their neighborhood school and taught by teachers at their neighborhood school as is their right. As a result, many parents who desire an online version have in fact had no option, but to choose the hybrid version.
For high school students, particularly juniors and seniors, IVA is a poor option as it means not taking the classes offered by the curriculum of the neighborhood school and they planned on taking classes taught by the teaching staff from the neighborhood school who would be writing letters of recommendation at college admission time. Also, the decision to take IVA appears to be a commitment that could very well last the whole year whereas the situation with the virus could potentially be significantly more manageable within a time period that is significantly shorter.
Keeping in mind that on the other hand, some parents/students desire to have in person classes, we request the IUSD make the following adjustments in the academic models for at least junior and senior year high school students to come up with a solution that satisfies both families desiring some in person schooling as well as families desiring online classes (from their neighborhood schools and taught by teachers from that school) :
1) IUSD survey parents of students in junior and senior year of high school who have signed up for the hybrid version to indicate whether they desire to have the 2 day a week class start as soon as the county gets off the state's monitoring list or whether they desire that classes stay online for longer (for the rest of 2020).
2) In all the classes in high schools (or at least the junior and senior years of high school), set one or more sections to be "online for longer".
3) Assign students who desire the "online for longer" option to sections that are associated with that option.
Overall our desire is based on both the safety of the students, teachers and their family members and the desire to reduce potential chaos due to switching back and forth between completely online and hybrid option as Orange County may go in and out of complying with the State's conditions for putting counties on the monitoring list and also because the State requires students to go into a 14 day quarantine in the event of a single positive case in any of their classes.
Note that as per the State's conditions, a student that merely manifests any of the symptoms of Covid will be asked to stay home and these symptoms overlap heavily with the common cold, flu and allergies. The presence of online sections will allow these kids to get some education.
We would like to make the following additional observation about this matter
A) Such an option could even benefit students who seek to have in person classes. The State's rules (State Rules for Schools) require that if a student tests positive other students in the class (and the teacher) go into quarantine for 14 days. In this period, the quarantined students may have to entirely miss those classes which did not have the covid positive student as these classes may continue to meet in person 2 days a week. If the "online for longer" sections exist, the qurantined student can at least attend these sections during the time they are in quarantine.
B) Our request may seem like it would add to the workload of the teachers, but in reality even as things stand in the hybrid model as designed by the school, the teachers are required to teach online for 2 or 3 days and they have to be prepared to teach completely online if the county goes back on the monitoring list.
C) Juniors and Seniors particularly add risk of transmission because the strategy of cohorting as suggested by CDC in its official guidelines (Cohorting) is not really viable as Juniors and Seniors take many different classes and therefore intermingle with each other to a much more significant extent. We understand other parents may deem that I acceptable risk and we are not asking for shutting down the hybrid option for all juniors and seniors, but rather that the school offer a neighborhood school based option for parents who want to stay online for longer.
D) Note that University of Texas has recently released a model (Reopening Risk), according to which they estimate that a school of University High's size would have about 7 covid positive cases on opening day based on the incidence of disease in our area and school size. I would estimate this group would probably come in contact with a quarter of the school's student body in their in-person classes. This suggests that the odds of a reasonably prompt shutoff for at least a significant subset of students is not that insignificant.
E) This summer in Georgia a whopping 74% (wow!) of summer camp attendees in a camp got infected by Covid; the camp admittedly did not follow all the precautions that IUSD schools would, but 74% is a very large number and even if the additional precautions bring the number of cases lower, there would still be considerable number of infections(Fox News article on Georgia camps).
F) Please note that in Indiana, in a high school a kid tested positive on opening day and now his class-mates are in quarantine (USA Today article on Indiana School).
G) Also, these students are essentially young adults and therefore potentially more likely to transmit the coronavirus. The largest school age kid study by far is the South Korean data and that suggests that older kids transmit the virus just as much as adults (NY Times article on 65,000 student South Korean study)
H) While we understand that children probably in general learn better with in-person education, juniors and seniors are significantly more mature and the modern economy requires people to be able to collaborate with individuals not in their physical presence (Pre COVID Inc magazine article about growth in purely work from home companies). Absent COVID, we would definitely prefer an in person option. However, given that we have been handed these lemons, it may make sense to make lemonade and use the opportunity to train our young adults to prepare for these trends in the modern economy.
I) The OC Register confirms that cases amongst 12-17 year olds are on the rise. ( OC Register article quoting president of Orange County’s chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics on significant ramping up in COVID cases and positivity rate in the 12-17 age group in Orange County ).
J) Also let us be careful about over relying on the apparent lack of severity among young students. Asymptomatic individuals, including kids, have been found to have damage to their lungs; who knows what the long term effects will be (Article quoting director of the Department of Health Palm Beach County on lung damage in children with asymptomatic COVID cases)
K) One suggestion; in our conversations with many parents of juniors/seniors who desire in person schooling, what they desire most is for their children to have opportunities to interact with other kids their age. Perhaps this can also be achieved (and achieved outdoors) through means other than in person schooling such as organized meeting outdoors.